American Quotations

AMERICAN LANDMARKS

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof. – Inscription on the Liberty Bell

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! – Inscription at the base of the Statute of Liberty [from the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus]

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD – Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. – Inscription on the last spike of the transcontinental railroad

HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969, A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND – Message left behind by the astronauts of Apollo 11 after the first moon landing

ON AMERICA

I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth. – John Adams

The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind. – Thomas Paine

I hope some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world. – George Washington

The welfare of America is intimately bound up with the happiness of humanity.  She is going to become a cherished and safe refuge of virtue, of good character, of tolerance, of equality, and of a peaceful liberty. – French General Marquis de Lafayette

Humanity has won its battle.  Liberty now has a country. – Marquis de Lafayette

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults. – Alexis de Tocqueville

A house divided against itself cannot stand…I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other. – Abraham Lincoln

If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen, me must live through all time, or die by suicide. – Abraham Lincoln

I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American. – Daniel Webster

The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. – Walt Whitman

America is another word for Opportunity.  Our whole history appears like a last effort in behalf of the human race. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Always the path of American destiny has been into the unknown.  Always there arose enough reserves of strength, balances of sanity, portions of wisdom to carry the nation through to a fresh start with ever-renewing vitality. – Carl Sandburg

There is in most Americans some spark of idealism, which can be fanned into flame.  It takes sometimes a divining rod to find what it is; but when found, and that means often, when disclosed to owners, the results are most often extraordinary. – Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

America…It is a fabulous country, the only fabulous country; it is the one place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. – Thomas Wolfe

The United States is alike a gigantic boiler.  Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate. – Winston Churchill

We must be the great arsenal of democracy. – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

For this is what America is all about.  It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge.  It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that’s been sleeping in the unplowed ground. – Lyndon B. Johnson

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We will preserve for our children (America), the last best hope on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness… – Ronald Reagan

She [Miss Liberty] has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people…In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal.  America’s is. – Ronald Reagan

We have gone forth from out shores repeatedly over the last hundred years…and put wonderful young men and woman at risk…And we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise have returned home. – General Colin Powell

ON LIBERTY

Give me liberty, or give me death! – Patrick Henry

Liberty must at all hazards be supported.  We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.  But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. – John Adams

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. – John Adams

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. – Thomas Jefferson

Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul. – John Adams

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground. – Thomas Jefferson

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism. – Alexander Hamilton

I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. – Thomas Jefferson

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. – Thomas Paine

The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people. – George Washington

in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. – Abraham Lincoln

We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen alter be neglected. – Glover Cleveland [dedicating the Statute of Liberty]

The value of freedom is not realized until lost. – French citizen under Nazi occupation during World War II

Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those peoples who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them. – Sergeant Alvin C. York

Some things have not changed at all since 1776.  For one thing, freedom is still expensive.  It still costs money.  It still costs blood.  It still calls for courage and endurance… – Harry Truman

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear and burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty. – John F. Kennedy

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. – Ronald Reagan

Equality of the general rules of law and conduct…is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty and the only equality which can secure without destroying liberty. – Friedrich Hayek

ON GOD & RELIGION

But where; say some, is the King of America?  I’ll tell you, friend, He reigns above. – Thomas Paine

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. – George Washington

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. – Thomas Jefferson

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. – George Washington

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records.  They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power. – Alexander Hamilton

I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. – Benjamin Franklin

I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe. – John Adams

For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy…the only grounds of hope must be on the morals of the people.  I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. – Gouverneur Morris

The pleasures of this world are rather from God’s goodness than our own merit. – Benjamin Franklin

Twas Me, ’twas the Lord.  I always told him.  ‘I trust you.  I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and he always did. – Harriet Tubman [as told to biographer Sarah H. Bradford]

In [the Founders’] enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. – Abraham Lincoln

Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are Brethren. – Motto of the North Star [antislavery newspaper founded in 1847 by Frederick Douglass]

The framers of the Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. – Reverend Billy Graham

ON THE AMERICAN SOLDIER

Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here. – Captain John Parker [Battle of Lexington, MA, April 19, 1775]

I have not yet begun to fight! – John Paul Jones [USS Bonhomme Richard captain]

The eyes of the world are upon us.  The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. – General D. Eisenhower [to allied troops on D-Day, June 6, 1944]

My estimation of him [American soldier] was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed.  I regard him then as I regard him now – as one the world’s noblest figures… – General Douglass MacArthur

Uncommon valor was a common virtue. – Admiral Chester William Nimitz [on U.S. Marines fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II]

ON PATRIOTISM

I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country. – Nathan Hale [final words before being hanged by the British]

The name of American, which belongs to you, is your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism. – George Washington

ON THE REVOLUTION

It is yet to be decided whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse:  a blessing or a curse, not to be the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved. – George Washington

In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes?  This is the question we must ask. – Benjamin Franklin

There!  I guess King George will be able to read that! – John Hancock [after signing his name in large script on the Declaration of Independence]

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. – Thomas Paine

Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and [King] George the Third may profit by their example. – Patrick Henry

All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another. – Samuel Adams

It is inconsistent with the spirit of the common law and of the essential fundamental principles of the British constitution that we should be subject to any tax imposed by the British Parliament; because we are not represented in that assembly. – John Adams

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. – Thomas Paine

Our kind is noble; it is the cause of mankind. – George Washington

We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in. – Thomas Paine

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. – Benjamin Franklin [after signing the Declaration of Independence]

United we stand, divided we fall.  Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union which our existence hangs. – Patrick Henry

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. – Thomas Paine

A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one. – Alexander Hamilton

ON GOVERNMENT

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. – James Madision

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. – Thomas Jefferson

The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. – James Madison

The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind. – Thomas Jefferson

Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed be the ordinary rules of common sense. – Thomas Jefferson

The great leading objects of the federal government, in which revenue is concerned, are to maintain domestic peace, and provide for the common defense. – Alexander Hamilton

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. – James Madison

Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression. – James Madison

[We are] the first people whom heaven has favoured with an opportunity of deliberating upon and choosing forms of government under which they should live. – John Jay

Government is instituted for common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men. – John Adams

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. – Thomas Jefferson

The people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it. – John Adams

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. – George Washington

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. – Thomas Jefferson

The form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is best. – John Adams

Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. – James Madison

Were we directed from Washington [city] when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread. – Thomas Jefferson

National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman. – John Adams

The best and only safe road to honor, glory, and true dignity is justice. – George Washington

ON THE CONSTITUTION

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race. – Calvin Coolidge

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought – not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate. – Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man. – William Gladstone

ON EDUCATION

Religion is the only solid basis of good moral; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God. – Gouverneur Morris

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge.  Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write. – John Adams

Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty. – John Adams [in reference to his children]

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty. – Thomas Jefferson

Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. – John Adams

In proportion as the structure of a a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. – George Washington

ON THE FAMILY

The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families.  In vain are schools, academies, and universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years. – John Adams

ON CHARACTER & MORALITY

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. – Benjamin Franklin

Conscience is the most sacred of all property. – James Madison

I pronounce it as certain that there was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous. – Benjamin Franklin

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestrial fire called conscience. – George Washington

Everything is useful which contributes to fix in the mind principles and practices of virtue. – Thomas Jefferson

Honesty will be found on every experiment, to be the best and only true policy; let us then as a nation be just. – George Washington

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company. – George Washington

It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones. – George Washington

Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages. – George Washington

These are times in which a genius would wish to live.  It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacifist station, that great characters are formed. – Abrigail Adams

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood… – Theodore Roosevelt

It is us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel towards our distant goal. – Helen Keller

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. – John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. – Rosa Parks

ON SOCIETY

Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual…Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us. – John Hancock

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. – Thomas Jefferson

There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery] – George Washington

I am for doing good for the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means.  I think the best way of doing good for the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but in leading or driving them out it… – Benjamin Franklin

The test of a civilization is the way it cares for its most helpless members. – Pearl S. Buck

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. – Frederick Douglass

Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. – John F. Kennedy

ON LIFE

Work as if you were to live 100 years, pray as you were to die tomorrow. – Benjamin Franklin

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. – Thomas Paine

Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is – Benjamin Franklin

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the facts and evidence. – John Adams

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. – Benjamin Franklin

Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as be little advantages that occur every day. – Benjamin Franklin

Diligence is the mother of good luck. – Benjamin Franklin

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. – Henry David Thoreau

I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. – William Faulkner

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. – Steve Jobs

Recommended Reading:

The Founding Fathers – Quotes, Quips, and Speeches by Gordon Leidner

The American Patriot’s Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb